Lessons from dog swimming

There are several keys to successful learning and I saw some of these in action on Saturday when taking Ivory, my Landseer (Newfoundland) dog-lodger to Keyhaven for a swimming lesson.

I assumed that such a skill would be inate – the breed is supposed to be a water lover, so wouldn’t she just see the sea and want to dive in?  Well, no.  She paddled a little but didn’t seem at all keen to go any deeper.

As a PR tutor, it is often easy to assume that students have a higher level of knowledge and enthusiasm than they do.  I need to understand what makes them nervous about jumping in and provide plenty of encouragement.  For the first teaching sessions, I normally play relaxing music, have toys and sweets on the desk and include various exercises to help everyone get to know each other.  I also work from a “know nothing” level and aim to quickly gain confidence.

When Ivory saw a black Labrador diving in after a tennis ball, she stood and watched – clearly interested.  Again, in class, it helps to use examples that have relevance.

But what really helped the big girl get into deeper water was my little mongrel, Barley.  He is easily motivated as he adores chasing sticks.  Throwing one into the shallows had him splashing about and swimming.  Needless to say, Ivory soon joined in the fun.

Finding the right motivation is a great aid to learning – and having an influencer with whom you can identify, adds the final incentive.

Of course, teaching students is a bit more of a challenge than getting a couple of dogs to swim.  But the smell of wet dogs in the car on the way home is much less rewarding than when you see students succeed in their assignments.

Given that the September marking has started to arrive, that’s a useful reminder for me too.

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

5 thoughts on “Lessons from dog swimming”

  1. I definitely would have thought that a Newfoundland would be attracted to the water without any urging. I had a schnauzer and a Westie who would not go near the water, even hated a bath, and one cocker spaniel who you could not keep out of any standing water anywhere.
    I agree with Welshcakes about the good analogy.

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